If your interested in my work in critical food studies, check out my shiny new professional site. I will be updating it with academic projects that carry on the work the work I do here at eathropology, only with much BIGGER words.
Paraphrasing the Car Talk guys, even though it might put the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics off its lunch to have to admit it, I am a Registered Dietitian.
I completed the Masters of Public Health/Registered Dietitian program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and I also partially completed–passed my qualifying exams and oral exams and everything–a PhD program in Nutritional Epidemiology at the same institution. However, when my advisor left to take a position at a university many states away, I had difficulty finding another advisor.
I was told that my public health advocacy work had created some “baggage” that made some folks in nutrition epidemiology reluctant to work with me–and then I was told that this was not true. I was told that the department fully supports public health advocacy, but that there were “concerns” about my “scientific objectivity” (somehow related to my public health advocacy work? perhaps or perhaps not)–but I was never able to get a straight answer about exactly how these standards of “scientific objectivity” are defined, or by whom, or how my lack thereof had manifested itself.
Certainly, there are questions that need to be asked with regard to public health nutrition. I don’t know that there’s one particular answer–it is a complicated situation–but there are significant paradoxes worthy of closer examination. However, the message I seemed to be getting from many of the professors in my department was that simply raising questions regarding the Dietary Guidelines is considered a demonstrable lack of objectivity–although this perspective is likely to be hampered by my demonstrable lack of objectivity.
To my relief and surprise, in discussions with various deans in various locations throughout The Graduate School at UNC-Chapel Hill and my department, I was told that my interest in the Dietary Guidelines was, in fact, reasonable and worthy of scientific investigation. And in fact, the nutritional biochemistry division of my department had no problems with my advocacy work. However, I was told that if I wanted to stay in nutritional epidemiology, I was probably going to have to pursue a case of discrimination along with my PhD. Sigh.
In the end, the story turns out pretty happily ever after for me. I was given some amazing advice by a number of really brilliant individuals. I took a year off & got to work with some of my favorite scientists & writers on a project. I checked out other PhD programs, visited & interviewed. My favorite program turned out to be just down the road at North Carolina State University, where I am now working on a PhD in communication, rhetoric, and digital media. I LOVE it here. I have been challenged (Biochemistry? Pshaw. Try Deleuze.), coached, mentored, and encouraged. I’ve learned to ask questions I couldn’t have even articulated before I came here. My classmates are an incredible array of talented individuals. I’m having the time of my life.
I guess if I had never encountered any entrenched opposition to my questions about the Guidelines, it would weaken my hypothesis that there is opposition to those questions. And of course now I am beginning to understand that the “opposition” is not personal, but systemic and institutional. It is still just a little embarrassing and disappointing to have to acknowledge that an institution from which I hold 3 degrees is home to the lamest sort of academic stereotypes regularly lampooned by Matt Groening, but such is life:
In real non-grad school life, I’m married to my own personal rock n roll heartthrob, and I am mother to 3 children who embarrass me much less than I embarrass them. I do yoga, eat food, write songs, and read a lot. I am proud co-founder and policy wonk at Healthy Nation Coalition, home to my public health advocacy work.
For the record, I do not pretend to give dietary or medical advice here. Despite any pronouncements I might make, how would I know better than you what you should eat? Your own experiences and a healer you trust are your best guides; learn to listen to and to question them both and don’t be happy with answers that fall short of soothing both the soul and the body. No information given is meant to treat or diagnose any disease or nutritional ailment, although you may want to bring some of this information to the attention of the aforementioned trusted healer before you refill your next prescription.
For the record, I do not speak for any other organization or entity. My views do not reflect the views of nor are they endorsed or verified by any other individual or organization, including but not limited to: North Carolina State University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the Gillings School of Global Public Health, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (cough), the USDA, the FDA, or my mother. If you want to know what they think, ask them.
Also for the record, I write my own material, so any inconsistencies, foolishness, missteps, and inaccuracies are mine and mine alone. What else would you expect from someone still trying to figure it all out?